We, human kind, "to be specific", have certainly not reached the point, in general attention and action, of recognizing the significance of any atrocious behavior to our individual and collective humanity and security, regardless of that behavior's order of magnitude, location or victims. We generally agree that it is bad. We do not agree for whom.
Humane behavior and the level to which each of us must accept the lack of it have long been popular topics of conversation and focus. The atrocities continue to grow. The ability to actively demonstrate widespread intolerance for them does not. World socioeconomic progress is discussed and many times gauged in humanitarian terms. Societal progression or regression are many times eagerly predicted depending upon one's view of the frequency of inhumane behavior.
However, I suspect that the presence of inhumane behavior has never been the effective barometer to social progress that many of these discussions and observations might believe. In actuality, the level that we actively or passively accept inhumane acts may give a better view into the current level of a shared definition of social progress and our communal development toward it.
I am one who believes that world societies should be seen as changing greatly but not as significantly progressing until there are major shifts in our ability to recognize and practice a universal intolerance for suffering of any kind. This point of view is certainly derived from my own opinion of the direction toward which I would like to see the world developing in its global conscience and community actions. It is my belief that tolerances for, not the acts which cause, suffering in others are more thorough indications of our world societies' active conscience and a shared, average well being.
Nevertheless, I am optimistic that just because we have shown the slowest development in this area of lowering our level of tolerance for inhumane behavior, we may be only now coming to a point in our world community social evolution where the problem can be addressed to a large enough and a capable enough audience that something can begin to be done about it. That level of acceptable suffering only has the possibility of dropping when many individuals, collectively around the world, believe something can be done about the problem because they have witnessed a scale of action and timing which they believe could effect a change.
This effort has less to do with just getting the word out about the world's problems or chiding people for their apparent apathy than it does with having enough resources and non-survival driven time in the hands of enough people to begin developing and practicing the primary goal of reducing suffering and avoiding potential suffering, which are by-products of survival-motivated actions.
The world has always been one of primarily survival-driven actions, in no matter what form or subtlety. Thus, there is little discretionary time and individual feelings of empowerment to consider humanitarian concerns as paramount goals of any individual or societal action.
Many people world wide believe that intentional goals of avoiding inhumane behavior should be a part of the mix of considerations for any action. Many also believe that people should be able to do what they wish as long as it does not harm other people or anything else. The definition of the term "harm" and when it does or could occur are the weaknesses in trying to gather a consensus of behavior toward humane action. Harm is too closely coupled to survival skills and reactions. Actions in the name of survival are historically very likely to cause harm. Survival and humane action are usually at crossed purposes. The avoidance of hurting others is easily and regularly compromised out of necessity for the stronger need of survival.
The complexity of human emotion caught in the endless context of survival makes it very difficult to establish a common ground of what behaviors are or are not acceptable, especially when some things, repugnant or not, must be accepted and are believed not to be within our power to change. If we felt we could change them, we might not be as apt to resign ourselves to, or deny, their existence or their threat to us. The tragedy is not that we have yet to discover ways to change or mitigate the critical problems but it is in the perception that it is possible to know what cannot be changed. The omniscient ability to know our true limitations has never been demonstrated, but our capacity to assume we know those limiting factors and to cease exploring how to or what to help is ever present. This perception highly limits our ability to see or take any action which relates to a greater, world community need to reduce suffering.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to look beyond what we know can be accomplished in order to fairly evaluate what can and should be changed in personal life or business, much less in social consciousness. Fair decisions and humane actions and especially their coupling appear to remain as less observed results rather than as inseparable parts of any of societies' or individuals' actions. Couple this rarity with the general self-deception that we are not only capable of fairness but practice it often in our day-to-day lives, and there is little motivation for, or understanding how to, change.
However, probably only when suffering, and more specifically when the tolerance for suffering, is seen to threaten our individual survival can the stronger, more universal motivating factor of survival be utilized. This motivating factor can be used to drive the development of mechanisms to empower individuals from their level to effect the global scope of the problems they begin to understand could threaten their worlds. In this manner we may be able to slowly accelerate the global conscience to bring its progress more in line with the pressures created by technical progress.
There is the challenge: to illustrate "universally" the possibility that it could be no longer acceptable (i.e.; it threatens our personal survival too much) to be powerless on an individual level to mitigate problems on a large scale. The large scale threatens us individually, and there is no large scale effort of others that we can depend upon to protect us. If we can do something about it and feel that we can, then the threat will be less, and we will perceive it as such.
It is possible that we have not yet, as a global society, evolved to the point where the time for organizing and tapping the shear power of the world communities' conscience has arrived. However, my belief is that the time is just beginning because the mechanisms for coordinating humanitarian efforts from an individual level to a mass scale are now possible, and the individual discretionary time and resources exist. When a world community, one person at a time, feels the effect and confidence of being able to reduce the unfair and the inhumane actions they see everyday, intolerance for suffering of any kind has a chance to find a building, collective and practical voice. That voice can then build because recognizable action will be seen as possibly effecting the global problems one hears about.
So, to instill in people the urgency and closeness of an issue or problem and how it may effect them and others, the traditions of proselytizing or describing the horrors of a problem may be far less effective than simply starting to give the individual the confidence and security which comes from each person knowing that they can effect change from their level. Nevertheless, it does little good to make people feel less vulnerable and individually capable if they are actually far from those secure states. There must also be a component of greater scope added to that empowerment. They must feel they can individually effect change on the scale of the changes which effect them.
If individuals become aware of the effect their cooperative actions in this combination can have on world stability, there will be a more universal understanding of the power of combining intolerance for suffering and the actions for its mitigation.
This process of building a real sense of world community action, as attached to the individual conscience and power, may be very slow with only the seed processes begun in our lifetimes. It is indeed a formidable task to get even the best thinkers and doers to understand the fundamental importance of this individual empowerment and scale of action for all of our well being. It may be difficult to get their support in the midst of the very survival-driven systems which require its existence and which make it easy to mistake technical for social progress. To get those who believe they do not have, and cannot create, the discretionary time to help may be, in the end, impossible. We do not know, but I believe we must try.
So, is the key to do something practical, from the individual level with a narrow enough focus and on a grand enough scale to effect those things which the individual is being told effect them? Is the way to evolve a social conscience with a practical voice to slowly allow individuals to feel what it is like themselves to effect global concerns and therefore feel more secure?
I believe it is, and that is why in 1992 I founded the Personal Shelter Project. Personal Shelter Project® charitable services are developing a world wide community action network to disseminate information and provide relief: "To protect us all by promoting local and global stability, starting from an individual level with simple, practical and basic ideas". The Project is not simply another melding of socially conscious ideals wrapped around what is likely to be recognized to gain the necessary support. It is a creative, innovative and practical approach to what needs to be addressed concerning any individual's vulnerability and part of humanity in this world.
The Project strives to address world problems which effect everyone, from social consciousness to physical threats, and to do this methodically through small, highly focused steps which themselves achieve useful and empowering results. In proportion to your insight, this Project has the ability to positively impact your life and those around you as your involvement, in turn, effects your community and indeed the world.
Copyright © 1992-2004 by The Personal Shelter Project, Inc.